Measurement and research are key components in the rehabilitative engine. Their ongoing contribution feeds the knowledge base, which not only informs practice and attempts to improve upon it, but also raises the profile of rehabilitation within the medical spectrum, and ultimately wider society. Where it is used as an assessment of efficacy and evaluation, it can justify a need for a specific intervention and monitor progress over time. Such results can satisfy audit criteria, reassure providers and funders of services, as well as aid resource allocation.
As well as being useful, research is essential towards establishing, developing and maintaining effective rehabilitative services. Research and measurement can be carried out in numerous ways and at many different levels. With the steady transition of rehabilitation services into the community, many traditional forms of research and outcome measure are no longer appropriate. It is for this reason that it is necessary to examine the different forms of research and measurement in rehabilitation today, and how they can be applied to the community setting. Some outcome measures have been specifically designed for application in the community, but widescale use is in its infancy. This chapter aims to discuss some of the issues surrounding measurement and research in the community.
Qualitative and quantitative research
The word qualitative implies an emphasis on processes and meanings that are not rigorously examined, or measured (if measured at all), in terms of quantity, amount, intensity, or frequency. Qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of reality, the intimate relationship between the researcher and what is studied, and the situational constraints that shape inquiry … In contrast, quantitative studies emphasise the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes.(Denzin and Lincoln, 1994)